NHRA Drag Racing John Force, Tony Pedregon and the 1999 Ford Mustang have scored the early season trifecta (three wins/three races) in their race towards the 1999 NHRA Funny Car Championship. But this early season success didn't ...
NHRA Drag Racing
John Force, Tony Pedregon and the 1999 Ford Mustang have scored the early season trifecta (three wins/three races) in their race towards the 1999 NHRA Funny Car Championship. But this early season success didn't come overnight.
Bernie Fedderly, co-crew chief along with Austin Coil on John Force's Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, equated this season's quick start to 12-hour work days during the off-season, struggles last year with the 1998 Mustang, and important lessons learned during a very close 1998 championship run.
BRIAN FEDDERLY - Crew Chief - Castrol GTX Ford Mustang - YOU GUYS HAVE GOTTEN OFF TO A GREAT START IN 1999. WHAT WOULD YOU ATTRIBUTE AS THE BIGGEST FACTORS IN YOUR EARLY SEASON SUCCESS? "Well, we have been able to take advantage of a lot of engine development that we worked on during the off season. We are running some improved cylinder heads this year and we have done some work on the fuel system that is making a good contribution to our power situation. Last year, when we were having some traction problems down course, we worked on our power application and that has paid dividends as well. Now we do have a little better aerodynamic situation, and we feel the combination of the improved aerodynamics, combined with good, smooth track applications, have contributed to our performance as well."
CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THE WORK YOU, AUSTIN COIL AND JOHN MEDLEN HAVE DONE IN THE ENGINE DEPARTMENT? "We are just always looking for the next step. We have made subtle changes in our cam shaft program and again, in fuel system items, cylinder heads -- just a number of things. It's an ongoing program. Every couple of weeks we have something new to try. We thought we were at a bit of a disadvantage last year, primarily from an aero point of view. But it helped us to be down, to be at a disadvantage for a while, because it was a bit of a reality check for us. It enabled us to focus on other areas. We thought, well, if we are at a disadvantage in the aero department, we are going to work more on our (power) application and horsepower, so that at least when we are on the good tracks, we were able to run well and I think we were able to carry through with that. But things clicked for us this winter. We devoted a lot of resources to improved performance and, gosh, it seems to be working at this point."
TO THE AVERAGE FAN, THE MOST NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JOHN AND TONY'S 1998 CARS AND THE 1999 CARS IS THE NEW MUSTANG BODY. BUT THE CHANGES BETWEEN THE '98 AND '99 CARS GO MUCH MORE EXTENSIVE THAN THAT AND HAVE ALLOWED YOU TO GAIN PERFORMANCE BY VARIOUS MEANS. "We have been able to get some weight out of the bodies and that's an improvement. John (Force) himself has lost about 15 pounds. We have also managed to slim down the chassis as far as bolt-on items. We have gone to lighter gauge materials, not structural, but as far as add-ons such as computer boxes, overfill tanks are lighter gauge, things of that nature. All of those areas really add up."
HAVING A LIGHTER CAR TO START WITH ALLOWS YOU TO PLACE BALLAST IN AREAS THAT ARE BENEFICIAL TO IMPROVING THE CAR'S HANDLING CHARACTERISTICS, CORRECT? "We are able to balance up the car much better now. Before, it was a what you see it what you get (with the '98 car), and we did not have much of an opportunity to move ballast around. We were already overweight, and so if the car was prone to carrying the front end, well we just had to go and pay the weight penalty and put some more weight on the front end. Now, if we have to put (some weight) in the front end of the car, we can take a little off the back of the car. It just gives us an opportunity to work on the balance of the car and it seems to be working in our favor."
JOHN FORCE RACING IS THE ONLY NHRA TEAM CURRENTLY WORKING WITH ROUSH RACING IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CAR. WHAT EXPERTISE HAVE THEY BROUGHT TO THE PROGRAM THAT MAY NOT HAVE BEEN THERE IN THE PAST? "Roush has a good composite shop and can build a good, accurate body. Their construction methods are a little different than our previous vendor. We basically started with a clean sheet of paper, as far as construction methods. When we picked the mile-an-hour last week for an example, when we ran over 324 mph several times, we found a couple of areas where there was some flexing and some delamination, so we have had to reinforce those areas. But we started on the light side and we are working it up a bit, so we have made some good gains in that area."
HAS JOHN'S PHYSICAL TRAINING PROGRAM HELPED HIM DRIVE THE CAR? "He seems to think so. When you are a little pudgy, you tend to be a little more uncomfortable in the car. Yes, I think it's a factor. I think he feels more at home in the car again. These cockpits are pretty crowded for a full-sized guy, Tony is a little slimmer so it's a better fit for him. But, John is a little bulkier so it's definitely made a difference."